Sharahya Carter: ‘Are You Hiring People Who Know How to Do Black Hair?’

As a model and actress, Sharahya Carter knows the power of her look—and she’s not afraid to use her voice to protect it. “If I look up and I look like a complete mess,” she says of hairstylists who don’t know how to style the soft corkscrew curls that comprise her ’fro, “I’m going to say something, because more than anything, it’s my brand.” The 20-year-old Oklahoma City native says she was “pretty shy” not too long ago, but after enrolling at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, “everybody started asking me my opinion.” Here, Sharahya—who just walked for Derveaux by Tommy Ton and Maki Oh for NYFW Spring/Summer 2019—opens up about her dream acting role and what it’s like to have natural hair as a New York model.

Amirah Mercer: Which shows did you walk in this season?

Sharahya Carter: I did one presentation for Derveaux and Tommy Ton. And I did one for Maki Oh at Vogue. She [Amaka Osakwe] is a really cool black designer.

Amirah: Is it important for you to work with people of color in fashion?

Sharahya: Yeah, that’s definitely a plus. But I think the main thing I really, really look for is, if you’re asking for black models, are you hiring people that know how to do black models’ hair and makeup?

Amirah: Have you had any experiences where the hairstylist didn’t know what they were doing?

Sharahya: Yes, not so much in New York but a lot in Oklahoma. I have really, really thick hair, so it has been a hit-or-miss type thing, because most people don’t want to touch it. They’re like, ‘Yeah, it’s perfect, it’s fine.’ Which is, like, a blessing—as much as I would like someone to do this or that to my hair, when I’m shooting and I’ve already done it and they just leave it, it’s great. But I have had experiences with people who are putting hair spray on it or doing something weird to it. I’ve also had people who surprise me and know how to do my hair.

Amirah: There’s the idea, though, that you are a model and your look is in their hands, so you just have to let go.

Sharahya: What I noticed about myself, I watch what they pick up before they put it on me, so if I see the artist going for the wrong color, I’ll start to stiff, and in the back of my mind I’m like, ‘I brought my foundation, it’s fine, you don’t have to fix it.’ But if I look up and I look like a complete mess, especially when somebody else on set has, like, perfect this or that, I’m going to say something, because more than anything, it’s my brand. I’m also an actor. Minor things can ruin how I look and make people think that’s how I actually look. If it’s something major, I say something—but if it’s something, like, a half a shade off or my hair is a little uneven I’m probably just going to live with it.

Amirah: You’re studying acting at NYU, right?

Sharahya: Yes.

Amirah: Are you pursuing stage acting or film and TV?

Sharahya: Film and TV. I would like to be on a TV series.

Amirah: What’s a TV show that you’re into right now?

Sharahya: Insecure, of course.

Amirah: Of course.

Sharahya: I literally love American Horror Story. Oh, my gosh, I love American Horror Story! To be on American Horror Story is great ’cause u get to change characters every season and that’s just so ideal. And I really love Westworld. I also watch a bunch of cartoons.

Amirah: As an actress and model, social media is probably very important. Do designers care about your follower count?

Sharahya: Once at a casting in L.A. they actually had me write [my follower count] down. And I’m like, ‘What? Why do you care?’ It’s just frustrating because, if you haven’t done something big, how are you gonna have a million followers? It seems like such a big distraction—a huge distraction—but at the same time, we wouldn’t have a certain type of diversity [without social media]. Social media has made it, to where you can’t ignore certain faces, because we’re here. Just like Black Twitter, where black humor has literally taken over Twitter. You can’t ignore people anymore.

Amirah: What about your relationship with Instagram personally?

Sharahya: Some people post every day and I’m probably eventually going to have to do that, but for now, I value having some form of separation. It’s kind of necessary for my sanity. It has become something that helps to curate my brand and curate what type of career I’ll have eventually, but I just can’t give it my everything. I think some things belong to me.

Amirah: Okay, speak it into existence. Who else do you want to walk for?

Sharahya: Moschino, YSL had great shows. Also Balmain. Yes, speak it into existence. I will walk for them.

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